WEST DES MOINES, IOWA (May 18, 2017)–Businessolver, a leader in SaaS-based benefits administration technology, today released data that shows American workplaces severely lack empathy, even though a culture of empathy improves employee retention and productivity. The conclusions are from the 2017 Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor, an industry-first study of workplace empathy. Released today, the findings reveal that only 49 percent of U.S. employees rate organizations as empathetic. Further, 85 percent believe empathy is undervalued by U.S. businesses, a 5 percent increase from the 2016 data.
While empathy may be challenging to exhibit, business health depends on it, Businessolver finds. The Workplace Empathy Monitor reveals that empathy can foster retention and drive productivity: 77 percent of employees say they’d work longer hours for an empathetic employer, and 60 percent say they would take a lower salary from an empathetic employer. Empathy is particularly critical to Millennials: nearly 80 percent say they would change jobs if their current employer became less empathetic, compared to 66 percent of Baby Boomers.
These findings are just a few slices of the data from the second annual 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor, a study of nearly 2,000 U.S. employees, HR professionals, and CEOs. The research is the first of its kind in the HR industry, a profession that employees rate as the most capable and effective at driving empathy in the workplace.
“Empathy is a guiding principle for Businessolver. We’re committed to continuing the conversation about why it’s critical in the workplace, and uncovering solutions that can help organizations make it a part of their culture,” said Jon Shanahan, Businessolver President and CEO.
While the “empathy gap” – the difference between CEO and employee perception of empathy in the workplace – is basically flat from 2016, more than 9 in 10 employees in the 2017 study feel that empathy is important. That high percentage holds even when examined across generation, gender, industry type, and business size.
The persistent empathy gap naturally leads to the question: Why haven’t U.S. organizations been able to close it? According to the Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor, the gap remains wide because:
– Empathy is difficult … Two-thirds of respondents agree that practicing empathy at their organization is “hard work” for most people.
– … especially for CEOs. Two-thirds of CEOs admit that empathy is a weakness in themselves, and they struggle to gain high marks on empathy from employees as well, ranking only slightly above corporate America.
“Empathy is essential to leading and managing others, but to reap its full benefits, leaders must understand what it is, how it functions, and how to effectively bring it to the workplace,” said Dr. Adam Waytz, professor of management and organizations at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. “Workplace empathy means understanding employees’ feelings and needs to drive a more engaged workforce and a better workplace experience. We can only close the gap and achieve greater workplace empathy if organizations commit to an empathy evolution.”
To foster an empathetic culture, employers can use four main levers:
1. Recruitment. Although empathy is a learned behavior, 58 percent of survey respondents believe it also depends on hiring the right people.
2. Education. It’s critical to train employees and managers on what empathy is and the behaviors that demonstrate it. For example, the Workplace Empathy Monitor finds the top behaviors that demonstrate empathy include treating everyone with respect, exhibit caring behaviors, and making time to talk one-on-one.
3. Expectation. Ninety percent of those surveyed agree that assessing empathetic behaviors should be part of employee performance reviews.
4. Employee benefits. Leaders can drive the empathy evolution by understanding what employees value in terms of benefits and workplace “perks.” Ninety-five percent of employees want an employer who cares about their health – physical and mental – and empowers them with flexibility – both work location and schedule. Ironically, work perks like happy hours, free food, pet adoption services, and spa services don’t hit the mark for most employees, even though many CEOs think those are what employees want.
“The Workplace Empathy Monitor provides answers on how to unlock the potential of today’s workforce. But knowing is not enough,” Shanahan said. “It’s up to all of us to put effective solutions into action to create a more engaging, productive, empathetic workplace.”
Find the full 2017 Businessolver Workplace Empathy Monitor online at businessolver.com/empathy. Follow and contribute to the conversation across social media with the hashtag #EmpathyAtWork.
Since 1998, Businessolver has delivered market-changing benefits administration technology supported by an intrinsic responsiveness to client needs. It creates client programs that maximize benefit program investment, minimize risk exposure, and engage employees with easy-to-use solutions and communication tools to assist them in making wise and cost-efficient benefit selections. Founded by HR professionals, Businessolver’s unwavering service-oriented culture and secure SaaS platform provide measurable success in its mission to provide complete client delight.
Kristin Schmotzer, Edelman (on behalf of Businessolver)